A Guide to Effective Communication for Project Management

Communication plays an important role when it comes to project management. Here's why and how you can utilise your communication skills to ensure project success.

Reviewed by Melina Theodorou

Effective Communication for Project Management concept

Whether it is a small business of a handful of people or a large firm with dozens of employees, effective communication is imperative to ensure everyone is on board and ready to accomplish the same objective within a project.

Yet, due to poor communication, it seems like there is something is always lost in translation. In fact, 56% of projects fail because of ineffective communication, according to a Brandeis University study

Without effective communication, it is easy for team members to become directionless and start completing tasks unrelated to the broader project. This can be a challenge for project managers, but not all hope is lost. We have put together an exhaustive guide for successful communication for project management.  

Types of communication in project management  

It is said that 90% of all communication is non-verbal. Indeed, there are various ways you can communicate with your colleagues the office. There are four primary communication categories:  

  • Non-verbal  
  • Verbal  
  • Visual  
  • Written

But how can you convey the specific details of the project, the goals that everyone should consider and the broad array of demands of a client to your team? In this day and age, communication is multi-faceted, as you can engage with your subordinates through:  

  • Emails  
  • Instant messages  
  • Face-to-face meetings  
  • Voice and video calls  

Of course, utilising a whole host of communication tools can be effective since you can essentially reiterate the finer points of the project.

Top communication skills for project managers  

The Brandeis study discovered that 69% of managers reportedly felt uncomfortable communicating with employees in general. This makes sense considering that fewer than one-fifth of employees note that their companies are doing a good job at facilitating strong communication throughout the organisation.  

Many say management does not offer clear directions, while others point out that management fails to schedule time to meet with employees.  

'Effective communication ensures the team does not misunderstand the requirements,' said Reuben Yonatan, the foudner and CEO of GetVoIP. 'Ineffective communication might cause a team member to think that the requirement was red while, in reality, it was burgundy. If they deliver a red product, the manager, the customer and the executive end up unhappy.'  

Yonatan added that it is critical for the manager supervising a project to maintain effective communication 'to get the most out of a global workforce' especially as 'the workplace is becoming increasingly global.'  

So, what needs to be done? That's simple: project managers must sharpen their communication skills. While the list can be extensive, here are the top five communication skills that project managers need to possess:  

  • Setting priorities: When leading a team into battle, the project manager's main aim is to clearly convey the strategy to successfully complete the assignment, including outlining goals, planning the course of action and prioritising from beginning to end.  
  • Fostering collaboration: Not only is it essential that the project manager is collaborating with everyone, but that they also engagement and collaboration among their team, too.  
  • Active listening: Project managers must be able to gather input and ideas from their team, and this requires active listening, without interrupting, dismissing or ignoring what each person has to say.  
  • Building relationships: Individuals will go above and beyond their call of duty if the project manager is attentive, honest and competent throughout a project.  
  • Consistency: As a project manager you must be consistent with the messaging and vision of a project. Constant changes can disrupt the flow and progress of the ongoing project but also lead to miscommunication and misunderstandings.

Why communication is important in project management  

In recent years, many companies have shifted to a remote format, meaning that more employees are working from home instead of at a centralised office location. This can be a challenging transition for both the company and the workforce, which is why effective communication is critical.  

'Recently, during our transition to remote work, I did my best to communicate to my small team the steps we needed to take to facilitate a smoothing transition that would see us meet the deadlines of all the pending projects,' explained the head of GetVoIP. 'I spoke one on one with the team members involved, listened to their concerns, and adjusted where needed. As a result, despite the upheavals of shifting to remote work, we met all our deadlines.'  

So, what are some of the benefits of effective communication when it is incorporated into project management? Here are seven advantages you should consider:  

1. Mitigating risks  

Let's be honest: no matter how much you plan, there will always be hurdles and setbacks. That said, by communicating with your team and breaking down what needs to get done, you can mitigate these risks and make certain that you can overcome any obstacles effectively and quickly.  

2. Facilitating employee development  

Be it Zoom meetings or in-person powwows, communication can trigger a tsunami of other short- and long-term benefits. The one that many experts discuss is talent development, whether it is confidence, collaboration, or camaraderie. By creating an environment where everyone is interacting with each other, you can almost guarantee that nobody is sitting on the side-lines.  

3. Ensuring everyone is on the same page  

By routinely communicating with your staff can help keep everyone on the same page. How many times have you spoken with your team in the last week or two? This is a good question to answer because it might highlight whether you are consistent with your communication efforts, or not.

By being communicative and encouraging others to express their thoughts about the details of a project, be it its process, the vision or the overall objective, you will be able to receive constructive feedback and input that can ultimately refine your next steps.   

4. Having clarity from the start  

When you launch a project, you generally start with a template. Once the blueprint has been established, it’s essential that you communicate the plan to your team as this will allow you to answer their questions, reaffirm details and brainstorm solutions to common problems.   

'As a project manager, you get to know their expectations and ideas about the final product as well as receive and process information about possible changes,' notes Kuba Koziej, the co-founder of Zety. 'There is a whole team that needs you to present the requirements for the project, carefully discuss its specifications, communicate about changes, and answer questions on a daily basis.'  

5. Creating transparency  

If there is one thing that many employees demand, it’s transparency. Unfortunately, far too many companies prefer to withhold details of ongoing projects from their staff, even if they are part of them,  which can lead to a lot of frustration. 'As a project manager, you need to establish good relations and effective communication channels when all parties are involved’ notes Koziej.  Regular and flexible communication can lay out expectations from the beginning of a new project.

Be it the corporate vision or the demands of particular clients, transparency allows your team to know what needs to be achieved as well as how to get there.  

Effective communication requires you being forthright and open. This results in dedication as well motivation as it can allow your team to feel that they are part of something more meaningful and important.

Tips for project communication  

According to the Brandeis report, 81% of employees recommended increased frequency in communication, 85% suggested constructive feedback, and another 84% wanted more clarity about project goals and expectations.

But what else can project managers do better to communicate the ins and outs of a project and encourage teamwork, participation and cooperation? Here are some tips to enhance project communication at the workplace:  

1. Establish a communication plan  

A communication plan will ensure that you stay on track with your broader communication endeavours for an assignment.

Here are some components you should consider when creating your communication plan:  

  • Identify all of the parties involved
  • Define the methods you will use to communicate 
  • Determine the frequency of communications
  • Establish the types of information need to be sent to each party (sensitive information, updates and standardised details)
  • Write down the purpose of your communication plan

2. Make use of tech and tools  

In today’s technologically advanced and hyperconnected world, there is no excuse to refrain from taking advantage of the treasure trove of software, tech and tools at your disposal.

From mobile apps to telecommunicating services, there are so many ways to communicate, plan, and work with the help of these resources. You can even choose to automate some of your communication, like an office memo or calendar reminders with the help of these tools.  

3. Schedule and plan meetings  

Meetings have garnered a horrific reputation these days - they are viewed as unproductive and a waste of time. But they can be quite the opposite if they are managed and executed the right way.

Before every meeting, make a list of what you want to discuss, allocate time to gather opinions from your colleagues and set a limit to its duration. And, of course, make sure your meetings don’t impede the work of your team.  

4. Have a daily checklist  

A to-do list will help you stay on track, finish what needs to get done and facilitate productivity. The concept of a checklist should apply to your communication, too, as you can try to keep up with your project objectives.  

5. Use visual aids  

Some people are more visual than others, so it is wise to accommodate them when possible. Oftentimes, a visual presentation can get your point across, too. Be it a chart or a video, there are many ways that you can utilise visual elements to enhance communication with your staff.  

6. Create a milestone tracker  

A milestone tracker can give your team an extra push and also help them keep track of the project’s progress.

Make sure to include objectives and project phases as well as assign responsibility to every team member. Each time you hit a milestone, make sure to acknowledge the project’s progress and praise everyone’s efforts.   

7. Celebrate achievements with your team  

Nobody likes a manager who takes all the credit, nor do they appreciate not receiving any praise for their work on a project. Therefore, it’s vital that you find ways to communicate your appreciation and gratitude for everyone’s hard work and contribution to a project.

Final thoughts  

'An organisation is a collection of individuals’ states Ruggero Loda, founder of Running Shoes Guru. 'To cooperate and act in concert, these individuals need to communicate with each other. If they're not, they're just a collection of disparate parts incapable of effective teamwork.'  

Within a project, everyone is connected one way or another. It is your job, through impeccable communication, to find a way to foster partnership and collaboration.

This can be achieved by understanding why communication is critical to project management success and properly employing the necessary communication measures.

Are you a project manager? Why do you think communication is crucial for a project’s success? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.


This article is an updated version of an earlier article originally published on 17 October 2016.